The Vancouver Canucks are slipping further out of playoff contention and desperately need a win against the surging Nashville Predators
After winning six-games in a row, the Vancouver Canucks have proceeded to lose their last four. In all honesty, these losses are coming from teams that aren’t exactly “great.” Their latest stinker was a 2-1 home loss to the New Jersey Devils on Sunday, one in which the Canucks should feel fortunate to have gotten a point.
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During this losing skid, the Canucks have scored just one goal in three of the four games. Daniel and Henrik Sedin are losing to father time at the worst possible moment, and the banged-up defence sure isn’t helping.
The Canucks are two points behind the Los Angeles Kings for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but the latter has two games in hand. Nashville is just one point behind the Kings, with two games in hand on the Canucks as well.
With so many injuries and the playoff race heating up, it’s becoming now-or-never for the Canucks to get on a run. It may seem too early, but can we call this a “must-win” game for the Canucks? I think it’s plausible.
Bo Horvat: The Canucks leading scorer has just one assist over his last three games, with four shots on goal. The Canucks offence will only go as far as Horvat can take them – can he get back on track?
Brandon Sutter: While Horvat and Sven Baertschi’s emergences have gotten the attention, Sutter is quietly on pace for a career year. He’s been this team’s best two-way forward and is on pace for 22 goals and 42 points.
Troy Stecher: The rookie just keeps getting better and better every game. Stecher has three points in his last four games over 20 minutes of ice time per game in those contests.
WHO’S IN NET:
Ryan Miller: Jacob Markstrom’s recent struggles have given the Canucks a tough decision – to trade or not to trade Miller? While the front office makes a call on that, Miller has single-handedly kept this team in the playoff race with a 3-0-2 record in January.
Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin — Loui Eriksson Sven Baertschi – Bo Horvat — Alexander Burrows Markus Granlund – Brandon Sutter — Jayson Megna Brendan Gaunce – Michael Chaput — Jack Skille
Alexander Edler -– Troy Stecher Luca Sbisa -– Chris Tanev Nikita Tryamkin -– Alex Biega
Ryan Johansen: The Vancouver native has just three assists in seven games this month with a minus-three rating. One has to believe he’s bound to turn it around at some point, though the Canucks held him off the score sheet last week.
Filip Forsberg: He’s scored one goal in each of the past two games and is a plus-four this month. However, Forsberg was shut down by the Canucks last week, with no points and just two shots on goal.
WHO’S ON DEFENCE:
Mattias Ekholm: With Roman Josi and P.K. Subban injured, the pressure falls on Ekholm. He’s posted a plus-five rating with a goal and assist over his seven games, so it seems like Ekholm’s up for the task.
WHO’S IN NET:
Pekka Rinne: With a defence in front of him that’s surprisingly not living up to its full potential, Rinne is saving the Predators season. He’s 16-11-6 with a 2.40 goals against average with a .920 save percentage with one shutout.
Filip Forsberg – Ryan Johansen — Craig Smith Austin Watson – Mike Fisher — Colton Sissons Viktor Arvidsson – Calle Jarnkrok — James Neal Cody McLeod – Derek Grant — Harry Zolnierczyk
Matt Irwin – Ryan Ellis Mattias Ekholm – Petter Granberg Anthony Bitetto – Yannick Weber
The Canucks are 10th in the Western Conference. In order to catch the Los Angeles Kings, they’ll first have to catch the ninth-place Nashville Predators. Even though both teams are playoff contenders, you have to remember they are in very different situations.
Nashville was a popular pick to compete for the Stanley Cup, with five analysts from Sportsnet picking them to win the Western Conference. With injuries to P.K. Subban, James Neal and Roman Josi, however, the Predators have struggled to compete in the ultra-competitive Central Division, let alone the Western Conference.
Vancouver’s front office sold a “competitive team,” with the goal of reaching the playoffs. In all honesty, you’d have a tough time finding many Canucks fans who thought this team would be in the playoffs.
But despite injuries to the blue line and the inevitable decline of Daniel and Henrik Sedin, the Canucks have found ways to stay alive in the playoff race. Their goaltending has been average and the scoring has been as porous as expected. Defence is keeping them alive, but how much longer can they hold on?
Even though games don’t feel like must-wins in January, there’s a strong chance both teams will be looking back on this one, regardless of whether or not either club makes the playoffs.